5 Awesome Books by Women Challenging the Status Quo
Are you looking for your next great feminist read? We’ve got a selection of awesome nonfiction books—from scientific analysis to health commentary to personal memoir—that challenge the status quo when it comes to women, sexism, gender roles, diet, healthcare, sex, relationships, and nearly every other aspect of daily life. These picks are great for expanding your own understanding of gender issues, putting yourself in another woman’s shoes, and for generating fantastic book club discussions!
by Daphna Joel, PhD
by Luba Vikhanski
For centuries, the prevailing wisdom has been that men and women act differently because of biological and neurological differences—the same old "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" concept. But in this book, neuroscientist Daphna Joel reveals that this conventional wisdom is false and there is no cut-and-dry binary when it comes to our brains. By drawing upon the latest neurological research, she shows that our brains are made up of features that society has labeled feminine and masculine, but generally speaking ours brains don't perfectly fit into that binary. Instead, brains are mosaics of both aspects, and how those various mosaics present themselves has a profound effect on how we understand gender binaries, behavior, and social roles.
Kate Pickert is a healthcare journalist who covered health issues for TIME Magazine and thought she understood the challenges facing patients—until she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Her experiences made her realize that most of society, even those who support pink ribbon fundraisers, have no context for what breast cancer patients and survivors go through. Pickert researched the history and culture of how we treat breast cancer in the U.S., and how breast cancer has impacted the medical community as a whole. What she found is that how doctors and the medical community approach the disease has come to define how we think about other cancers and health in the U.S.
Are you tired of being stuck on the diet treadmill? Christy Harrison is a nutritionist and counselor who takes a hard look at how diet culture has permeated society's perception of health and wellness, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. She analyzes how diets don't work or fail to stick, and takes a hard look at how diet companies and the people they target have a long history of equating skinniness with morality—something that is deeply harmful to society, but especially harmful to women. Harrison also addresses how women can buck this vicious cycle by eating intuitively with health in mind, and giving tips on how to detect harmful eating and dieting advice that is counterintuitive to health and weight loss.
Wednesday Martin is a cultural critic and journalist, and in her latest book she tackles the weighty subject of women, fidelity, and sex. Conventional wisdom likes to portray men struggling with monogamy while women are generally more faithful, and society likes to judge a cheating woman extra harshly. Here, Martin does a deep dive into women across cultures to see how they view sex and sexuality, and to expose sexual behavior and societal influences. What she finds is that women like sexual variety, and that the old ideas about women, promiscuity, monogamy, and sex are just that: old. This book includes extensive interviews and draws upon research to portray women and sex in a completely new and updated light.
Caroline Van Hemert is a biologist and researcher, but when she was in graduate school, she began to worry that all her time spent in labs and poring over data had left her detached from what drew her to the field in the first place: her passion for wildlife and birds. So she and her husband set out on a 4,000-mile trek from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic, observing nature in its purest form and reconnecting with the wild world around them—while also weathering danger and mishaps. For fans of Lab Girl by Hope Jahnsen and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, this is a riveting account of a woman who immersed herself in nature to better understand and study the resilience of natural life.
What great nonfiction titles would you recommend to readers who want to challenge the status quo?
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Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor at Book Riot. Find her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.